Judith Collins resigned as a Cabinet minister yesterday.
Photo: Getty Images
An inquiry into Judith Collins' downfall is poised to
investigate links between former Hanover boss Mark Hotchin and
right-wing bloggers who waged a smear campaign against
ex-Serious Fraud Office chief executive Adam Feeley.
The top-level investigation is set to drag in numerous
prominent New Zealanders.
They include property developer Tony Gapes, Shareholders'
Association founder and former Financial Markets Authority
(FMA) member Bruce Sheppard, high-profile lobbyist and PR
agent Carrick Graham and Cameron "Whaleoil" Slater.
Collins resigned yesterday as Justice Minister after a leaked
email from Slater claimed she had been "gunning" for Feeley
while she was minister in charge of the SFO.
She will remain as MP for Papakura and is set to stand in the
Further emails, expected to be released today, are believed
to show Graham - who was at one time employed by Hotchin -
and another right-wing blogger, Cathy Odgers, alias Cactus
Kate, were behind attacks on Feeley.
As former managing director of Hanover Finance, Hotchin was
at the time under investigation from the SFO and FMA for his
role in the failure of Hanover in 2008.
About 16,000 people with investments totalling more than
$500million lost most of their money following the failure of
Hanover and related companies and the sale of assets to
Correspondence obtained by hackers who targeted the Whaleoil
site showed Slater and Odgers were working together with
Graham to attack Feeley while he was responsible for
investigating Hanover Finance.
Feeley is now chief executive of the Queenstown Lakes
The email released yesterday set out plans to discredit
Feeley and was sent to a "Mark".
Several sources claim that was Hotchin.
It was also sent to a "Carrick" - Carrick Graham who was
representing Hotchin at the time.
Collins denied any knowledge of the smear campaign, instead
claiming she had been the victim, but was forced to resign
after a series of controversies just three weeks out from the
Slater wrote a series of highly critical blogs about Feeley
in late 2011.
They covered allegations that could have damaged Feeley's
reputation in the eyes of the public.
On October 7, 2011, he wrote a series of blogs titled "Staff
Issues at the SFO".
One had claimed 23 staff had left the department at that time
during his tenure.
Slater had written: "What sort of cowboy culture has been
bred by Five Fingers Feeley at the Serious Fraud Office?"
It is understood emails to be released will show pressure was
exerted on the SFO and the FMA to close their investigations
Odgers was a figure in the Dirty Politics book and last week
her Hong Kong-based employer Jeeves Group confirmed she was
no longer a consultant for them "by mutual consent".
It is understood that decision was linked to emails being
released by the hacker today, which are expected to show the
bloggers were being paid to discredit Feeley.
Slater says he "embellished" references to Collins in the
damning leaked email that led to her resignation as a
Last night Slater revealed he would lay a complaint with the
Privacy Commissioner over Prime Minister John Key releasing
the email that led to Collins' resignation.
He claimed Key had "breached my privacy", a charge he also
aimed at Dirty Politics' author Nicky Hager.
Graham said he would not comment.
"I don't discuss who my clients are or the work I do for
them. Facilitate is a private company and that's all there is
In a statement last night State Services Commissioner Iain
Rennie said he was "extremely concerned" at the suggestion
that Collins had undermined Feeley.
"It is important that chief executives and ministers mutually
support each other to carry out their respective roles.
"I am therefore extremely concerned by an allegation that a
minister has associated with third parties to discuss
influencing my assessment of a Public Service chief
executive. If true, this would be wholly unacceptable."
Gapes, a former close friend of Hotchin, was also among the
victims of the smear campaign.
Gapes was shocked to find he was fingered in a smear campaign
to undermine his credibility as a potential witness against
the troubled Hanover company. "A lot of it is all falling
into place now," said the Auckland developer.
Gapes said he went from being a developer with a low media
profile to suddenly appearing in a constant stream of
"It was obvious I was someone Hotchin was worried about when
he was being investigated by the SFO," said Gapes.
Sheppard last night said emails between Graham and Slater
revealed plans to deliberately target him.
The emails were sent at the same time as the former
Shareholders' Association president was involved in
defamation against Hotchin and fellow Hanover boss Eric
One of Collins' most relentless opponents, Joe Karam, says
the country is better off with her out of Cabinet.
"May she be long banished to the backbenches," Karam said.
The SFO did not gain enough evidence to prosecute anyone
associated with Hanover.
Hotchin and five others, including Watson, will face a High
Court trial next year after they pleaded not guilty to civil
charges brought by the FMA.
Good, bad and murky views
Opinion was split in Papakura when the Herald on Sunday
visited the electorate shortly after Judith Collins'
resignation was announced.
"I'm very upset about it, actually, because she's such a good
minister," said John Smith.
Christine Baty was also unshaken in her support for the
embattled MP. "We need somebody stirring and feisty," she
"She's in your face. I like having somebody like that there."
But Sanjay Arora said her resignation was "about time".
"She should have been sacked earlier. I don't know why John
Key took so much time."
Rita Rai said she voted for Collins at the last election but
would not do so again.
"Things have been a little too murky."
The Dirty Politics scandal has tarnished Collins in Danny
"When she first started I actually thought she was quite
good, even though I didn't vote for her. After what's
happened over the last few weeks, I'm glad she's gone."
Tweeters twitch over minister
Judith Collins' resignation created plenty of debate on
social media, especially Twitter where the #judithcollins
hashtag proved popular.
Lizzie Marvelly @LizzieMarvelly:
"So Slater was basically bragging with puffed up claims in
the email. What a silly little man. Why you would associate
with him is beyond me."
Imperator Fish @ImperatorFish:
"BREAKING: Judith Collins removes all mirrors from her house,
as she begins hunt for the person who destroyed her career."
James Elliott @JamesElliott8:
"I agree with Slater - Judith Collins death by a thousand
cuts, all self-inflicted."
"BREAKING: Judith Collins has unfriended Cameron Slater on
Facebook; relationship status changed to "it's complicated"."
Greg Boyed @GregBoyed:
"If nothing else after #JudithCollins resignation you'd have
to look back with head shaking awe at the stickability of
Russell Brown @Publicaddress:
"So: mindful of the polls, they needed a pretext to dump
Collins, but it couldn't come from Hager's book. So this
email turned up. Amirite?"
Barry Soper @barrysoper:
"Emergence of the Collins execution email convenient for Nats
given opinion polls overwhelmingly said she should go!"
- Herald on Sunday